More than a dozen communities and locations across County Durham are set to get access to dozens of new books thanks to Durham Book Festival and a regional employer.

As part of the forthcoming Festival, arts charity New Writing North, which produces it, is introducing the concept of Little Free Libraries to the county, through which books can be shared and enjoyed by people of all ages.

Originating in the US, Little Free Libraries work to the ethos of “take a book, leave a book.” and all begin with a range of books that are suitable for all ages, which readers then replace with one of their own when they take their chosen book away.
The Festival team had originally been looking to set up a small number of sites as part of the Book Festival, but now, thanks to a £12,000 grant from The Banks Group via its Banks Community Fund, a network of 15 Little Free Libraries will be established across the county by the autumn – and they will all stay permanently in place once the Book Festival is over.
Locations will range from Durham City sites such as Palace Green, the Gala Theatre and Durham Cathedral through to community centres in places including Tow Law, Pelton and Waterhouses, Jack Drum Arts in Crook and the Locomotion Museum in Shildon.
The Banks Group grant will also pay for new bookcases, seating, soft furnishings and display materials to be installed at the Wheatley Hill Community Centre, in which a new library will be located alongside an established family reading area.
Each library is being built by volunteers, including members of the Greenfield Arts Men’s CREE Group and volunteers at Shildon’s Locomotion Museum, and volunteer community librarians have been recruited in each area who will look after the libraries in the future.
There are now more than 25,000 Little Free Libraries around the world, but only a few in the UK, and theproject is being set up to extend the Durham Book Festival’s reach out across different parts of the county, as well as to encourage people living across the area to read more books more often.
Rebecca Wilkie, programme manager at New Writing North, says: “The idea of Little Free Libraries has taken off right around the world, and we’re very excited to be bringing it to County Durham.
“This is a truly community-based arts project, not only with regard to the locations in which we’re placing the libraries, but also in the direct involvement of local people in creating, using and sustaining them.
“Our Little Free Libraries will increase the opportunities for people across the county to be part of the Durham Book Festival, and we hope that as many people as possible will take the chance to get involved through reading something new or sharing a book that they especially love.
“We wouldn’t have been able to undertake this project on this scale without the support of the Banks Group, and their involvement will provide a lasting project legacy for communities right across the county.”
Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at the Banks Group, adds: “As a County Durham business, we’re very pleased to be able to get behind a project that will benefit people and communities right across the area, and being a long-term supporter of the Durham Book Festival, it’s great to see it reaching out to involve even more of our home county.”
The Banks Community Fund provides grants for community groups and voluntary organisations in the vicinity of Banks Group projects.  Anyone interested in applying for funding should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342.

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